You were injured because of someone else’s mistake. You are not the litigious type, so you dutifully keep the insurer for the party at fault appraised of your injuries, lost time from work and recovery. You provide the adjuster with documentation of your losses. You are hopeful for an amicable settlement.
Then the offer arrives. There are low offers, but this offer is obscenely low…disrespectful even. In most business negotiations, parties negotiate in good faith. In Oregon, however, insurers have little incentive to negotiate in good faith. Because, unlike some of its neighboring states, Oregon law generally does not provide for punitive damages in the context of a third party claim such as an automobile accident claim against a bad driver, for example.
That said, in my experiences as a plaintiff attorney and before that an insurance lawyer, here are the top 5 reasons why seriously injured persons get low ball offers for legitimate personal injury claims:
1. Insurers are accustom to fantastic settlement deals
Remember the great recession of 2008? Unemployment soared. Real estate values plummeted. Many Americans struggled to provide for basic needs such as housing, clothing and food.
While many struggled, those with money, such as insurance companies, enjoyed tremendous opportunity. And, insurers took full advantage by offering injured persons pennies on the dollar to resolve their personal injury claims.
Fast forward TO 2014 / 2015. After resolving personal injury claims for bargain basement prices for six years or so, two things have occurred:
A. The median value of non-litigated cases has reset lower; and
B. Psychologically, insurers believe low ball offers work;
2. Social media undermines your claim
Claims adjusters use Facebook too! Don’t post anything on Facebook or other social media after a personal injury claim. Just today I was in an arbitration where the defense lawyer grilled my client about her facebook page. It got him nowhere, but know that if you have a claim, your facebook page will be scrutinized.
3.You are not represented
The fear of losing money motivates insurers. When I was a large loss insurance adjuster years ago, a very nice but naive plaintiff attorney once revealed, “Rich, don’t worry I will never sue you”. To myself I thought, there are twenty lawyers who will sue and will take the case to a jury, I better attend to those other cases. I never called the nice guy back. Without an attorney, the insurer faces ZERO chance of a large jury verdict.
4. Your attorney settles for too litle, too often
Early on in the claim process the insurer will ask the plaintiff attorney for his firm’s tax id # . This is not simply fort claim administration. Insures use the tax Id # to check past insurance payments to the plaintiff firm. Attorneys who settle too often without litigation and for low amounts should expect low offers in future cases.
5. Too much treatment with alternative care providers
Decision makers (juries, arbitrators, judges) favor claims supported by well-reasoned, expert opinion and testing. Like it or not, a hierarchy exits in the world of medicine. In general, the opinion of specialists are given more weight than the opinion of generalists in matters concerning the specialty. The opinion of medical doctors are most always favored over the opinion of chiropractic physicians. This is may not seem fair especially since alternative care, particularly massage and acupuncture, can be very effective in reducing pain. If you are seeing an alternative care provider make sure you have a referral from an M.D.
NOTE: Beware of unscrupulous treatment providers who insist on treating even though the treatment is not working. In the auto accident setting, it is crucial not to use up PIP benefits on alternative care. If you do, you may not have enough medical coverage for critical care (surgery, for example) you may not even know you need.